Thursday, 31 May 2012

6 Reasons Why Everyone Should Volunteer Abroad in Their Lifetime

1- It puts everything else into perspective

How many times do we act as though something that has happened will end the world? The supermarket running out of your favourite food, the queue at the bank being really long - you name it, we all act like these things are the worst thing that could happen. On my first every day visiting Valea Rece in Romania, I saw things I never thought I would see in Europe; houses without proper roofs/walls, children walking around (on glass) without shoes, babies with no clothes on laying in the mud, rubbish everywhere and children no older than 5 begging on the street. It’s then that you start to realize how good I have things here. Yes, we all know poverty exists, but for me it was only when I saw it first hand that it really put my life into perspective and realized how lucky I was.

2- You’ll experience some of your proudest moments

Okay, so I might have felt proud when I scored a winning goal for my football team, or when I achieved my targets at work and I’m sure I’ll have a huge grin on my face when I graduate, but I will never ever forget the look on the Romanian kids faces when we gave them clothes for the winter! There is genuinely nothing else that I could feel more proud about than when we give clothes/toys/sweets to some of the poorest children in Europe.

The kids waiting to get clothed. We gave to 316 this year :-)

3- Improve your employability

I’ll admit when I signed up to volunteer in Romania with Leeds Met in 2008, I wanted to do something different to put on my CV. I guess, I’m a bit ashamed of that now (see number 1 and 2) but I’d like to think it’s made me much more employable. I’ve worked from when I was 16 so my CV has never been bare but it was my experience in Romania that gets employers interested. Every single interview I’ve attended have asked me about Romania and the feedback from these interviews was that no-one else had that kind of experience (I didn’t get the jobs for other reasons… but that’s another story!)

My current employers loved my volunteering experience and I think you’ve got to do everything extra you can these days to stand out and international volunteering ticks all the boxes!

4 - Make friends for life

I never thought I would make some many friends from volunteering, but I really have made some friends for life (cheesy I know!). I met some of my best friends from Romania in 2008 and we’re still great friends now. The one thing you’ll have in common with them is your experience. While your other friends dread you saying “This one time in Romania….”, you’ll always have your experiences to talk about with your volunteering friends.

Some of my Romanian besties :-)

5- Experience new things

Everyone experiences something different, I’ve been to Romania 7 times and every time my experience has been completely different. I love that volunteering is so unpredictable, one time I went to Romania we sung and danced to Greece Lightning at 3am with the locals. Another time we had a singsong sat with 65 kids sat around a bonfire. One of my favourite memories of Romania (am I saying the R word too much?!) was the night when we were followed by a creepy man on a bike (it was okay in the end), we stayed on mattresses on the floor in a nursery and had two of the lads from the village as our body guards (in case said creepy bike man appeared). It was the first night of us getting there, but turned out to be the best icebreaker we could have.

The night of the bike man

6- It’s a life changing experience

It really is a life changing experience, I never thought volunteering would have this much impact on my life. But it’s something I can never stop thinking about. I spend a lot of my time collecting clothes and doing fundraising events. It’s not just the charity side of it’s that’s made it a life changing experience though, it’s also helped develop me as a person. Four years ago I had hardly any confidence and hadn’t done anything like this before. It sounds stupid, but for me it was a big deal and I did almost wimp out! I always remember the look of fear on my mums face when I got on the coach with 11 strangers! She sent me a text 10 minutes later saying ‘are you going to be okay’. Well, I was okay thanks mum!

My boys :-)

One of my favourite Romania pics

Point of this long article?! - Do it!  

Monday, 14 May 2012

To Intern or Not to Intern…That is the Question!

Internships seems to be a popular talking point at the minute. So, after interning for a year, I thought I’d give my two pennies worth (if that’s the right phrase?!)….

Many employers are accused of exploiting their interns, but how can they be exploiting someone who knew exactly what they were being hired for? I completed a years internship working in marketing and knew exactly what I was getting myself in for. Yes the tasks were tedious, yes the money was pants and yes I would have preferred a paid job, but it was the experience I wanted and needed and that’s exactly what I got!

I started packing brochures and writing repetitive emails but that comes with the job title I guess. You’ve just got to persevere, show enthusiasm and you’ll be rewarding in the end! I was anyway, my work kept me on part time whilst finishing my final year of uni then hired me full time straight after finishing. Proof that a one years internship pays off right?

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all plain sailing! There were many times I got a bit depressed about the rubbish wage and even more so when I worked out what I was on an hour…£1.34! I did consider getting a weekend job to help finance it, but I’m glad I didn’t. That way I was still enthusiastic and committed to my job, instead of being tempted by more money at a more rubbish job (I’m good at English really!)

My advice is make the most out of it and think about what’s at the end of the rainbow so to speak. It’s all experience and that’s what counts…. How old does that make me sound?   

My Daily Commute – All the Things that Irritate me

One of the signs of getting older (I may only be 22, but sometimes I feel like I’m 42!) is that everything seems to annoy me. Practically everything on my commute to uni or work irritates me. I think I’ve always been annoyed by these things on some level, but it’s only now that I’m actually dedicating time to have rant about it… is that the definition of getting older?!

People on the train/bus taking up two seats. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this sometime in the past, but if it’s busy how hard is it to move your bag so someone can sit down?! Unless someone has paid for two seats, one for them and one for their bags and/or feet then fine!

Handing a bus driver a £10/£20 note. Why is it when you give a bus driver a note they look at you like you’re trying to give them drugs?! I’m made to feel guilty every time I give them a note when they always have enough change anyway!

People running for the train when they still have 5 minutes before it sets off! Okay, so this one really shouldn’t annoy me. But as soon as one person starts running, it sets everyone else getting the train to run too. Then when I’m the only person one not running I start to wonder whether I’ve got the time of the train wrong (even though it’s the same time everyday and I know that) so I start to run too. Then I sit on the train with minutes to spare, oh well at least I get a seat for a change.

Pigeons (Nothing to do with public transport but part of my journey which annoys me!). They are the most annoying animals ever! The streets of Leeds City centre seem to be full of them. It’s not the actual pigeon that annoys me, it’s when they start flying off and I think they are coming really close to me. So obviously I duck out of the way, then realize they weren’t coming anywhere near me so I just look like a crazy person ducking!

Rant over… for today anyway!

P.s I’m not an angry person, in fact I’m usually positive about most things but there is something about public transport that makes you mad! I hope someone reading can relate to some of these things… otherwise I sound like I need help!